Shut down the email treadmill

Graffiti: Hamsterrad, treadmill, vacation

When­ever I return from a vaca­ti­on, I know that the­re will be up to 1000 emails wai­ting for me. I will need 2 – 3 weeks to catch up, negle­c­ting other tasks. Some­ti­mes I think it might be saner to not go on vaca­ti­ons anymore.“

This is the depres­sing rea­li­ty for mil­li­ons of employees: It has beco­me incre­asing­ly impos­si­ble to dis­en­ga­ge ones­elf from the ste­ady stream of elec­tro­nic com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, more and more via tablet and smart­phone. Reasonable employ­ers have long rea­li­zed that the pres­su­re to be con­stant­ly online is harmful to their employees, doing a dis­ser­vice to their orga­niza­ti­on in the long run.

But is there an alternative?

I recom­mend that you tho­rough­ly check at which work­places email ser­vice can be cut off during employees’ vaca­ti­on. Peo­p­le sen­ding mails to them would get the usu­al absence noti­fi­ca­ti­on pro­vi­ding pho­ne num­ber and email address of the per­son stan­ding in. Addi­tio­nal­ly they would be infor­med that their mail will neither be saved nor ans­we­red in order to pro­tect the employee’s vaca­ti­on and recrea­ti­on. It will then be up to them to deci­de: Do I need to cont­act the per­son stan­ding in or can I wait until the employee’s back in the office?

Cle­ar­ly, in a smal­ler orga­niza­ti­on this may not work for some manage­ment or fund­rai­sing posi­ti­ons. But even here, space for crea­ti­vi­ty might be grea­ter than you first think. Posi­ti­ve side effects are: Inter­nal regu­la­ti­ons for sub­sti­tu­ting in someone’s absence will be taken more serious­ly, sin­ce all inco­ming com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons are not going to crash down on the per­son retur­ning from a vaca­ti­on. Employees will feel less irre­placeable, which is good, and your part­ners will get an exam­p­le for how work can be orga­ni­zed in a more huma­ne way.

Why not use such a step in the inte­rest of your employees’ health to crea­te posi­ti­ve publi­ci­ty for your orga­niza­ti­on? You might even set off a trend among your peers.